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Surprise, Surprise--We Took the Long Way Down!

Because Matt was not arriving in Miami until 4PM, we made a long day trip of our journey, which won't surprise you at all if you are a regular reader of Camera Crazy. Why take the straight shot when you can meander? Leaving the house a little after 7AM, we started off on the Turnpike, but not for long, getting off after only about 60 miles. Two things were on my agenda, seeing Lake Okeechobee, and Lion Country Safari, just outside West Palm Beach. Mission accomplished!
Bruce is standing on top of the bike dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, mostly seeing water. No great surprise because the lake covers 730 sq miles, or roughly half the size of the state of Rhode Island! There are locks and flood gates along the perimeter, one such gate looks like this:
The folks who were fishing kindly informed me that the baby herons I saw in the nest belonged to Mama heron sitting on the foreground post.
Originally I thought the standing one was the Mother, but apparently that is not the case. This is the closest I've ever been to a shore bird's nest out in the wild; as you can imagine, I was pretty excited. You might just as well be looking at the ocean the lake is so big!
Apparently it is quite the hot spot for bass fishing--we saw multiple RV parks along the shoreline, or make that the canal between the dike and the lake.
Perhaps I should take this opportunity to mention this post will be VERY photo heavy?

It will be very photo heavy. There, I've warned you, bail out now if your time is limited!

Continuing SW, we saw fields of sugar cane which is kind of weird since I recently posted the picture of what you can buy in the store, nevertheless, there are fields as far as the eye can see.
For a good long while we could see a long line of palm trees on the horizon. So what? Well, in the flat landscape they really stood out for one thing, and then too, why were they there? Mr. Smarty Pants Bruce figured it out before we got closer--they were lining the long road into a sugar processing plant.
I mean that Mr. Smarty Pants in a very good way. It is so helpful to have, as your traveling companion, someone who knows more than you do, especially if you are the curious type like I am. For whatever reason, they also grow sod...
Shadows of the palms in the foreground, providing just about the only shade we saw. Not too far from here we made it to LCS, entering the animal portion through this area while listening to a CD explaining the animals and their habitat.
Just on the other side of this driveway you enter gates onto the area known as Las Pampas, or grasslands. Although you know you'll be seeing animals just doing their thing, it took me by surprise to immediately see this guy just walking in the grass.
The feathers you see in the grass on the left belong to one of many birds known as Rhea, native to South America, more specifically Brazil and below.
Before I go further, I must tell you that all the photographs were taken through the car windows, as we were warned to keep them up, with the doors locked. We saw llamas, and tapirs hanging around, then on to Ruaha National Park, or what they call the area with African wildlife including lots of animals that either resemble a deer, or a horse. Of course the males mostly have horns, but that's another story.
We got a kick out of watching these impalas locking horns:
There are a lot of the ostriches, a bird that you wouldn't want to run into in person, or I sure wouldn't.
They are so gigantic up close. Apparently they can grow to 8 feet tall! As you see, the animals roam freely and have the right of way. The lady on the cd told us to drive in two lanes, the left one as the drive-by lane, the right to stop and gawk. Unfortunately, many of the people who were visiting when we were, either can't follow directions, or won't. Obviously you can't honk, but if we were to visit again, I'm thinking a weekday might be less crowded. As I said, lots of guys with horns:
Aren't they something? I loved the white underbelly on this Blackbuck. Onward to the Serengeti Plains, home to the Waterbuck. Both the males and females have horns, as well as a distinctive "target-like" pattern on their rumps.
The above photo shows how there is room for the animals to roam at will, as long as they stay in their habitat.  Park workers provide additional feed on the concrete pads along the roadway. Here's a Southern White Rhinoceros coming out after a swim:
Those are the big boys of the park, weighing up to 2.5 tons! Why they are called white, when clearly they are not, is beyond me.
Here's another big boy called a Watusi--the original Longhorn? The information pamphlet tells me their horns can span, are you ready? 10 feet!!

Lions? Isn't this place called Lion Country Safari? Although we saw some, sadly, they were pretty much all taking a siesta under shade shelters....call me a little disappointed, although as hot as it is right now, who can blame them?

I was really hoping to see some lions, as well as some zebras, and on that front I scored. There were loads of them, some crossing the road,
and some hanging out with their friends:
I can't figure out why, but the above two look like one is white with black stripes, while the other is black with white stripes. An age-old question I suppose ,but I sure can see why people have always wondered about this. So, they were great, as were the giraffes--oh my they are fantastic!
Oops--looks like someone put the window down for a moment and it wasn't me! Have you noticed how nice everything is kept? We were pleasantly surprised at how the animals all look so clean and healthy.

Just after the giraffe area, you leave the safari, heading into a big parking lot to, either exit, or park your car and see what the "walking" part is all about. We did the latter and again were so happy we did. Who isn't happy when they see the gorgeous color of a flamingo?
I got Bruce to ride the carousel, as well as take my photograph while doing so!
The main challenge was I was the pencil skirt I was wearing! Next up--the ferris wheel:
Aren't the cars super cute? Round and round we went with a nice overhead view of the giraffe area as a bonus. Although we did not participate, this little girl fed a giraffe some romaine lettuce which he seemed to enjoy very much, sticking out that 15" tongue to grab it!
After a time, he'd had his fill of lettuce, moving onto the provided hay:
 Who doesn't like giraffes?

After a nice lunch, we took to the road again. The charge for LCS is $28 a person, which later on in this trip will seem like even more than the bargain I thought it was at the time. I'm realizing just how long this post could go on, so, in the interest of both of us, I'm leaving you for today. After the weekend, this week will seem pretty tame, leaving me with plenty of time to fill you in. Stay tuned for more adventures in Florida, taking the long way!
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